Adirondack chairs have become a part of the American culture. Take a brief look at their history and how they have evolved over the last hundred years.
Adirondack chairs have been around now for about 100 years. Their history is a bit sketchy, but it is believed that they originated from the Westport chair. But let's start back at the very beginning, and the motivation behind these wonderful Americana chairs.
There was a man named Thomas Lee who would vacation each summer in Westport, NY, which lies on Lake Champlain by the Adirondack Mountains. Now, Henry was part of a large family. Large such as in the neighborhood of 22 family members. Now, I don't know the relation of everybody, but I am sure it included kids, grand kids or grandparents, perhaps even siblings, nieces and nephews. Regardless, they would all gather in the summer and Thomas had a hard time finding a place to sit outside and enjoy the summer weather because of a lack enough outdoor furniture.
It was the summer of 1903 when he started messing around with some spare boards lying around to try and design a comfortable outdoor chair. With so many family members around, he had many test subjects around who were willing and able to try out his chair designs. After much trial and error, he came up with a chair that became known as the Westport Chair, named after the town they vacationed in.
The chair that everyone highly approved of had a straight back and seat made out of really wide planks, that were angled backwards to make it more comfortable for sitting on the side of a hill (of which there were plenty in the region). The other design standard of Thomas' chairs was really wide arm rests, perfect for resting a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer day.
In town, Lee had a friend named Harry Bunnell who was struggling financially. Lee showed Harry his chair design thinking that he could make them during the winter to sell, helping him out of his money problems. Bunnell saw the potential in the chair, especially with the summer crowd. So he filed a patent for the chair on his own, and built a successful business manufacturing the chairs for the next 25 years. The original chairs were made out of hemlock (not very durable, but highly available), and painted either brown or green. What Lee thought of Bunnell's actions, I do not know.
In the last hundred years, the chair evolved to have more planks which were narrower (the original Westport chair may have had only one large panel on the back and two wood panels for the seat), and the name changed to represent the region, to Adirondack chairs. The chair also evolved into different styles based upon the same design. You can now get Adirondack chairs with leg rests, with a rocker base, as a two person bench, in child size or as a chaise lounge, to name just a few. They also come made out of a variety of materials, though wood (especially cedar and red wood) is most popular. Though poly-wood (recycled plastic product that resembles wood) has become more popular in recent years.
One sign that the chairs have become a part of American culture is that the word is starting to take on additional meanings. People in the southern US will say that they are Adirondacking when they are at a picnic where people primarily sit around in their Adirondack chairs to eat. Or to describe sitting in an Adirondack chairs display outside home improvement and other stores to rest while shopping.
Adirondack chairs are a great piece of Americana that we can all enjoy. They are such comfortable chairs and are well suited to most any setting. And with the different styles and colors that they come in today, you are bound to find one that you will like.